Reviews tagging Death

Ruinsong, by Julia Ember

6 reviews

sarah984's review against another edition

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dark emotional tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.0

I thought this was a really fun idea for a story, and the singing magic was cool. Everything was tense and the stakes felt high. Most of the characters were interesting.

However, the characters we spend our time focused on are probably the least interesting of the bunch. They spend a lot of time complaining and making impulsive decisions (and then complaining that people don't trust them not to make impulsive decisions) and you only kind of hear about other characters doing cool things in the background. The ending wraps up extremely fast so a lot of the victories don't really feel earned. I get the idea of noting every character’s skintone instead of making special note of who wasn't white, but it really drove home how white the core cast still was so I don't know if it helped.

Also this is a nitpick but if you're retelling Phantom of the Opera and you drop ZERO chandeliers? You're doing it wrong.

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starccato's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional hopeful mysterious sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.25


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cameronreads's review against another edition

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dark tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.5

I really liked the magic system in here - using songs as spellcasting was super interesting and unique. I liked the world as well, and the author did a good job of showing just how awful the queendom was, although I would have liked to see more of the Expelled settlement. In fact, that whole section of the book could have been expanded on, in my opinion. I also would have liked to see more of the rebellion. I don't know if I just love books with loads of POVs, but for me it would have been cool to see from Nolan's POV (not just because he was my favourite character). In general, actually, I just felt like more could have happened. There were practically zero side plots, and considering this book is quite short for a fantasy it wouldn't have been any harm to add some, and I think it would have been helpful to expand the world a little more. Most of the book felt almost like build up, and I was actually expecting it to be the first book in a duology until I got to the end. However, I did really like how the plot progressed, and I was engaged throughout the story. It wasn't entirely unique as uprising plotlines, but the magic system brought something new to the table, and the fact that the nobles were discriminated against by the queen was unique as well. I liked that it was set in court, and that said court was pretty different from most you read in fantasy. 
I did really like the main cast, and both the queen and Ren were really interesting antagonists to read about. However, and this is complete personal preference, I did think the romance was a bit lacking. When I was expecting it to be a duology, I was really liking the idea of a slow burn, and thought the hints of romance were being done really nicely, but when I realised those 'hints' were the romance, I was a little underwhelmed. It could have been utilised really nicely and been a great side plot, but it was barely there at all. Again, that's personal preference, but still. 

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booksthatburn's review against another edition

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dark emotional sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

RUINSONG is a slow burn sapphic tale of falling in love under brutality, and daring to hope for a better future even after being groomed into complicity. The opening chapters are brutal, slowly but inexorably describing a reign of death and torture in which a powerful queen demands complicity and service in exchange for life. The plot is at least 90% slowly inching towards maybe doing something concrete about it while an ever escalating series of discomforts befall the main characters, then the ending is very dramatic and sudden. I refer it to a series of discomforts because the worst stuff happens around Cadence rather than to her (very early on bad things happen to Remi and then keep happening). There's a sense (usually backed up by dramatic asides and tales of woe) that much worse things are constantly happening somewhere to somebody, but since they aren't literally happening to Cadence she's been reluctant to try and change things. I don't have a great sense of what the revolutionaries want other than to not be tortured and killed by the Queen (this is, admittedly, a very sound basis for a revolution so it's okay that other demands aren't a focus of the narrative). I think that I personally prefer books with more specific political intrigue with their revolutions, but that's not what this book is trying to be. The romance is slow burn, since Remi and Cadence don't feel free to do much of anything, let alone broach the topic of being girls who like girls. It barely feels safe for them to be friends, since Remi's very proximity is being used to control Cadence. 

The worldbuilding is fine, it's not very complicated because the story invests its detail in the Queen and the two girls, and the people around them. One thing this portrays very well is emotional abuse and manipulation, and the way that a combination of threats plus unpredictable enforcement can be used to break someone down and make everything feel pointless. The story is about whether Cadence will finally have something that it's worth standing up for, and I appreciate how the story shows why she didn't fight for things before. Even if her reasons seem silly or you can imagine yourself doing more in her shoes (some of her fellow characters think they might have done more), the characterization is so well done to explain why she hadn't before, but without excusing what she's done and continues to do. 

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valpuri's review against another edition

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dark sad medium-paced
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.0

I was excited to read this, but sadly the book just fell flat towards the end and I struggled to finish it. I'm so disappointed that I can only give this one 2/5 stars. 

The concept of magic that is sung and a romance between two women that are on opposite sides of a rebellion are what convinced me to pick up this book, but it just didn't really deliver on either of those. There is very little world-building or character development, and the latter half of the book feels very rushed. :( The first half of the book is pretty good and promising... I just wish that there was something more to the end.

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caseythereader's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional hopeful sad medium-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country's disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen's bidding. But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself. 📚

What I liked:
📚 Queer PHANTOM OF THE OPERA retelling? Yes, please!
📚 I loved the magic system here. I loved the idea of singing to marshal your magic, and that you could tell a lot about the mage by their voice.
📚 Such wonderful imagery, from the beauty of the Queen's stronghold to the horrors of the region where those expelled from the court are sent.
📚 The tension between the protagonists felt real - it wasn't insta-love, but also the barriers they faced weren't just pointless roadblocks. 📚

What I didn't like:
📚 It's a pretty basic YA dystopia setup. This isn't necessarily a knock on the book, just something to know going in.
📚 I do wish some pieces of the world's history and nuances of the magic system were more detailed - I could tell there was more in the author's brain that didn't make it into the book. 📚

Content warnings: alcoholism, blood, death, homophobia (mild), physical abuse, torture, violence, and vomit.

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